Every year, it staggers me. Mostly, I think it’s the improbability of the enterprise that knocks the wind out of me, leaves me utterly shattered. The notion that the God of the universe would submit Himself to all the ugliness and indignity and pain that this world can muster, and much worse besides – that He would, in doing so, turn death itself against itself. Add to that the breathtaking, terrible yet wonderful truth that He did all this for the likes of me, and countless more like me. How can it be so?
In our experience – in my experience – news that good never is. But this news is, as the world around us testifies. Everywhere one looks, in nature and history and, if we have the eyes to see, in our own daily lives, one can see the signs: life springing from death, glory and beauty from ugliness and hell, seemingly pointless misery that proves anything but pointless. Much of the time, I’m too absorbed in the details of my own existence to see those signs. Thankfully, there are times like today when I’m granted a small glimpse of the truth.
Small glimpses are the most I can take, and seem almost more than I can bear. It’s often said of my faith that it’s pie in the sky – the faith of those who believe what we wish were true, not what is. That argument cuts no ice with me, for this story is emphatically not what I want it to be. That anyone would bear such hell, would achieve such an unfathomably costly conquest for my sake is a horrifying thought to me: I hate debts of all kinds, especially those that are far beyond my ability to repay. That my Creator, the One who has better reason than anyone knows and far better reasons than I care to admit to find me deficient – that He would do so is simply unbearable. Not the kind of moral order I’d design, were it up to me.
And yet, in the end, that unbearable truth turns out to be the only truth that can be borne; the news that shatters all who hear it is also the only news that offers any hope that the pieces might, somehow, be put back together. Our world is filled with shattering news; of late, I’ve heard more than my share. This news is the only kind I know that heals even as it wounds. Life from death: an awful paradox, and yet an inexpressibly lovely one.
He is risen indeed.